HR Policy: Dealing with Employee Absence and Return to Work Meetings

All companies, large and small, have to deal with employee absence at some point. Clear, concise and easy to access HR policies for employee absence and return to work meetings can help this process; ensuring that all employees understand what is expected of them, and what to expect in return from the company, by means of support or disciplinary action, if problems arise. All new employees should receive a copy of the policies, and updates should be distributed to all current employees.

HR Policy for Absence

Setting clear policy about what is expected of employees in the case of absence decreases the chance of misunderstandings leading to unauthorised absence, increasing the ability of management to respond against it when it happens. A typical HR Policy for absence can outline the following:

  • How long prior to the planned working time an employee needs to contact the company to ensure no disciplinary action will be taken (and what form of contact is acceptable for this communication)
  • When absence is not acceptable; clearly not making an effort to get to work when there is just a sprinkling of snow etc., or when absence is expected; in the case of sickness and diarrhoea where an employee coming to work is more likely to cause disturbance and spread the sickness etc.
  • What paperwork needs to be provided for sick leave; (self-)certification/fit to work notes

Being flexible, accommodating employee absence where possible can earn your company respect with employees and encourage them to work harder in their appreciation. For this, your HR policy may contain:

  • If (and how) flexible working or overtime in lieu can be arranged for employees to make up for absence
  • If (and how) remote working can be used to let employees work even if they cannot reach the workplace

Also, making clear what an employee can expect from the company while they are absent in the form of pay and contact can avoid stress about how they will be able to fit back into work from long-term leave or stress from complications when it comes to pay time. For this your HR policy may contain:

  • What pay an employee should expect whilst they are absent; if they are absent because of snow, or to find childcare when schools are closed for the day because of snow, there is no legal obligation to pay the employee for working unless the workplace itself has to be shut due to the snow, whereas if the employee is off sick they can expect statutory sick pay and any extra sick pay that the company provides through their contracts and T&C
  • What contact the company will keep whilst an employee is on long-term sickness to keep an eye on progress and ensure coverage of their time off can be arranged appropriately and that when the employee is ready to come back to work they can quickly be reintegrated with the company team

HR Policy for Return to Work Meetings

Return to work meetings can be useful for a few reasons:

  • Making sure employees realise that absence is an important matter to the company
  • Giving your employees all the information they need to get settled back into work quickly
  • Checking that your employee is up to the tasks required of them in the job they are returning to or helping decide if there needs to be changes to the work load to ease them back in. Particularly if they are still on medication which may cause side effects that could affect their work, or the type/location of work.
  • Identifying underlying problems causing extra absence such as poor work design or employment relations

However you decide to use return to work meetings it is important to ensure that they are used in a positive fashion, to gain information useful for employee care and business development, and not as a disciplinary/interrogatory action. Making your return to work meetings policy clear can help to stop misconceptions forming about them. Items you could cover in your return to work policy include:

  • When return to work meetings are held (eg. after a certain amount of absence over a set period of time)
  • What can be expected in a return to work meeting and why, what information is talked about and how that information will be kept (ensure information about employee illness is kept confidential)
  • What conclusions can be made from the return to work meetings (agreements on changing employee work load/position/hours, arrangement of employee support etc. as needed)

HR Policy on Absence Disciplinary Action and Dismissal

Disciplinary action for absence due to sickness or poor weather conditions is unlikely to be accepted as fair by a tribunal and may even be attributed to discrimination if the employee involved has a protected characteristic. However, this does not mean that absence cannot lead to disciplinary action or even dismissal if required. To ensure that any disciplinary action taken does not hurt the company reputation:

  • It should be made clear what is expected of employees, when sanctions are to be applied – verbal and written warnings or dismissal (based on certain amounts of unauthorised absence or authorised absence within a set period of time). This information could be included in your disciplinary policies.
  • The company should be as flexible as possible in trying to accommodate for employees to work around issues effecting their ability to work, taking into account GP fit to work notes and employee disability
  • Actions should be dealt fairly and consistently while taking into account the background of individual cases such as ongoing medical treatment etc. and must be carried out within the law.

HR Policy Involving the Management for Positive Absence Prevention

Whilst these absence and return to work meetings policies can help to keep absence under control it is good practice to ensure that your company is not causing increased absence. Managers should be trained to reduce the chances of employee work stress (which can lead to extra absence and lower productivity):

  • Making sure that individual employee work loads are not too high or too difficult, whilst ensuring their work is challenging and rewarding
  • Helping to create a positive working atmosphere
  • Being approachable so that employees can voice when they are having difficulties at work to solve problems as soon as they arise instead of letting them build up
  • Dealing with reintegration of employees from long-term absence as a company challenge rather than a problem the employee must face alone

For More Information on Managing Absence and Return to Work Meetings see:

A Note on Absence Record Keeping

Keeping accurate records about employee absence (when absence is occurring and why) can help company development and individual employee care as analysis of the data can help to:

  • Spot employees who may need support or a change in work load to improve their work hours
  • Find problem areas within your company that may need investigation to improve employee wellbeing
  • Quantify the effect of new campaigns put into action to help improve employee health and wellbeing

You should only keep data that is necessary for reasonable aims for employee care and company development, and employees should be aware of what data is kept and why. Also, any change in what data is kept also would need to be discussed with the relevant employee representatives/unions to ensure that there is an agreement on what can be kept and how.

This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

New HR Legislation January-March 2013

Overview of important changes for business in HR legislation from January to March 2013 inclusive:

Skip ahead to:

1st Jan 2013: New Percentages for Pension Revaluation:

New percentages for pension revaluation are up; view the UK Gov Table of Pension Revaluation Percentages for revaluation percentages of occupational pension scheme benefits on or after Jan 1st 2013. Note that the revaluation percentages are now calculated by Retail Price Index – RPI (formally calculated by Consumer Price Index – CPI).

9th Jan 2013: Apprentice Minimum Wage Enforced for Employees under Apprenticeship Agreement:

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (Consequential Amendments to Subordinate Legislation) (England and Wales) Order 2012 amends the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 so that employees under apprenticeship agreements are entitled to “Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage Rate” (see table below).  Also, with this order, the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 does not apply to apprenticeship agreements anymore.

Apprentice National Minimum Wage 2012-13: 21years old and upwards £6.19, 19-20 years old £4.98 and under 19 or in the first year of apprenticeship £2.65

Source & for more minimum wage rates: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

19th Jan 2013: New Motor Vehicle Driving Licences Validity Period and Medical Test Requirements

For all licences issued on or after 19 January 2013, those for Group 1 categories (cars and motorcycles) must generally have a validity period (AVP) of 10 years, and those for Group 2 categories must generally have a 5 year validity period (although shorter AVPs on grounds of age or disability are permitted).

For Group 2 categories, new drivers from 19th Jan 2013, (and anyone renewing their licence over 65) will be need to provide a medical examination report to confirm they meet medical standards for driving these vehicles; renewing the licence under 45 will require signing a declaration that they are still fit for duty. More information can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk.

Make sure your drivers aren’t caught off guard by the legislation!

1st Feb 2013: New tribunal award limits:

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2012 increases the limits applying to certain employment tribunal rewards (and other amounts payable under employment legislation) given for events occurring after 1st Feb 2013. Events from before 1st Feb 2013 leading to tribunal rewards are limited by the previously in force Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2011. (See table below for a summary of important award limits).

Tribunal Awards Limits from Events Before/After 1st February 2013: Situations: Unfair dismissal (before £72.3k, after £74.2k maximum); Unfair dismissal or selection for redundancy on grounds of union membership or activities (before £5.3k, after £5.5k minimum); Unfair dismissal of an individual on grounds of the individual performing (or proposing to perform) functions as a representative (or candidate) for health and safety or trade unions or as a trustee for a relevant occupational pension scheme (before 5.3k, after 5.5k minimum). Payment to an employee for calculating basic awards and various additional awards: In respect of any single day’s pay (before £23.50, after £24.20); In respect of a week’s pay (before £430, after £450).

Source & for more tribunal award limits: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/3007/schedule/made

Also, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (due in February 2013) is expected to amend the formulae for various tribunal awards and statutory redundancy payments, rounding awards to the nearest pound.

8th March 2013: Unpaid parental leave increases to 18 weeks:

The Parental Leave Directive 2010 (postponed enforcement until 2013) increases the right to unpaid parental leave from 13 weeks (three months) to 18 weeks (four months) from 8 March 2013. This unpaid leave can only be taken within the first five years of the child’s life or in the case of adoptive parents within the first five years of the adoption or by the child’s 18th birthday (if it is sooner). For more details on Parental Leave, check out www.acas.org.uk.

March 2013: Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill:

In March 2013 the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is due to:

  • Repeal a provision of the Equality Act 2010, which provides that the employer will, in certain circumstances, be liable where an individual is harassed by a third party (such as a customer).
  • Amend Tribunal procedure in discrimination cases, requiring employment tribunals to order an equal pay audit where an employer breaches the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010 (except in prescribed circumstances).

March 2013: DBS Checks (formerly CRB checks) Become Portable:

Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) functions were transferred to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) on 1st Dec 2012. Formally known CRB checks are now obtained as DBS checks from the DBS. Expected March 2013 (as per the Home Office Business Plan 2012-15), once a DBS check has been completed, the results will be portable (available online for employers to confirm that no new information has been added since the check was originally conducted). This will enable an employee to not require a new check every time he or she starts a new job.

Fast Forward to April:

There are even more changes due April including all new: employee-shareholder contracts; collective consultation period; responsibility for real-time payroll Information; statutory payments; and much more, look out for our overview of April changes closer to the time!

Factsheet: HR: New Legislation January-March 2013
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

HR Policy: Why Promote Gender Diversity to Top Management?

Are you trying to convince board members that levelling the male to female ratio in top management is not just about portraying gender equality and equal opportunity? Or considering the promotion of gender diversity to top management in your own company, but not certain how much resource you can ‘afford’ to use on the change? Then this factsheet on why promoting gender diversity to top management may be just what you need!

Just diversity?

A socially diverse team is more likely to question and amend ideas to suit more types of people before releasing a more effective ‘finished product decision’. As with including any social diversity in a team, including both males and females brings together a wider range of knowledge, skills and points of view and so improves team abilities, especially in the case of the decision making process. A ‘culture club’ management team (of very little social diversity) may come to a decision very quickly but with very little distance between the original idea and the ‘finished product decision’ it is likely to fall short of the success it could have made with more varied input. However, having a ‘token’ female on the management team is not enough, as including females in top management is not ‘just’ about social diversity, some other factors to consider follow.

Understanding Important Players:

p>The two main groups (important players) that top management teams need to understand are the customers and the employees; how best to communicate with them, engage and persuade them. To best understand a target audience, and how to effectively complete the tasks above, the team should either mirror the audience demographic or include individuals with strong empathy skills. Looking at the statistics for these important players; 50% of workers are females and 70% of household purchasing decisions are driven by females (TCAM 2009), therefore a management team of 50-70% females would be expected to be more successful than other management teams. Similarly, when looking at studies of female/male empathy skills, generally females show a higher competency than males, concluding that a management team with a higher percentage of females is more likely to be successful.

Complementary Gender Skill Sets:

It’s not just empathy skills that generally differ between males and females. A recent study (2012) showed that males and females generally have polar opposite leadership strengths and weaknesses suggesting that the natural styles of males and females are complementary.

The female leadership style has been shown to be more social with stronger interpersonal leadership competencies: scoring higher in planning, managing and organizing activities, respect & empathy for others and personal responsibility. The study also showed that generally females are good at prioritising and multitasking, tending to meet deadlines and deliver on promises, and are socially-sensitive and good listeners.

The male leadership style was shown to be more strategic and visionary: scoring higher in strategic vision, commercial focus and personal impact. The study also showed that males are generally good at making a strong first impression, expressing views with confidence, being visible across the organisation and making their presence felt. Less socially-sensitive, males tend to be more focused on the rational, practical and commercial aspects of achieving results.

By creating a management team with a more even split of males and females, a balance of the general strengths and weaknesses of the male and female leadership styles can be reached, ensuring effective team performance in all leadership areas.

Brand Image:

More social awareness and higher empathy levels brought to top management through a higher percentage representation of females can have a further knock-on positive effect on brand image. While males are more likely to focus on the profits that can be made by an idea with a mind to put in place corrective measures if problems occur, presence of females beyond the token sense in top management would mean the team is more likely to take into account risk assessment and prevention before passing a decision. This in turn reduces the negative impacts that the company has on the environment and communities within which the company functions improving the brand image.

The Bottom Line:

The real business savvy question is of course, does putting time and effort in to introduce HR Policies to increase the percentage of females in top management really make a difference to the bottom line figures? Some may say that the current setup has always worked, and is still working just fine. However, empirical studies over the last few years are showing results worth making a fuss over; showing a strong correlation between business performance and female participation in top management:

  • Studies 2007: Companies with more females on the board and in top management showed considerably higher return in sales (+42%), on invested capital (+66%) and on equity (+53%) – Catalyst, and had a higher chance of gaining strong stock market growth among European companies – McKinsey&Company.
  • Study 2009: Companies with at least one female on the board cut the chance of going bankrupt by 20%; having two or three females lowered the chances even further – Leeds University Business School.
  • Studies 2011: Companies with 19-44% females on the board had higher return on invested capital (+26%) than companies with zero females – Catalyst. Companies with females on the board had higher operational profits (+56%) than those without – McKinsey.

So with all this evidence pointing towards needing more females in top management why are they not making it through?

Untapped Female Resource:

There isn’t a shortage of female talent in the UK: – At the moment, six out of ten university students are female and females are consistently showing better grade averages. However, while 50% of the UK workforce is female, they make up less than 15% of top management. It appears that currently a large pool of female talent is being largely unused. Many companies are already taking steps to improve their male to female ratio in top management. Don’t get left behind! Make sure potential female candidates in your company for top management are not being over-looked or left behind due to inappropriate incentives; bring their skills and knowledge to top management before a competitor steals them!

Check our factsheet paired with this on for more information on How to Promote Gender Diversity to Top Management in HR Policy.

Factsheet: HR Policy: Why Promote Gender Diversity to Top Management?
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

HR Policy: How to Promote Gender Diversity to Top Management

During the 15months since the Lord Davies Report in 2011 the percentage of female non-executives on FTSE 100 boards increased from 15.6% to 22.4% while the percentage of female executives is still abysmal at 6.6%! While it appears that companies are finding it relatively easy to outsource to bridge the female gap in non-executive board positions, the ability to find and nurture female talent up through top management to executive positions appears to be lacking.

Not certain why gender diversity in top management is important? Check out our other factsheet HR Policy: Why is Gender Diversity Important in Top Management? Continue reading for how HR Policies can help to improve your company at promoting gender diversity up to top management.

Create an effective HR Policy Plan:

To be effective at promoting gender diversity the HR Policy Plan needs to work from three directions:

  • Monitoring and periodic evaluation of the gender equality and diversity in the company from entry level to on the board; identifying where gender diversity is going awry and the causal inequality barriers, measuring the effect of current and any additional HR policies employed and ensuring that good HR policy is kept and ineffective HR policy is improved.
  • Building and delivering the case for gender diversity to ensure that adjusting the gender balance is not approached as a numbers game of filling quotas but as an opportunity and requirement to diversify the abilities of the top management team.
  • Take action and make policies that break and overcome the inequality barriers causing the gender in-balance starting at the most damaging barriers within your company indicated by the monitoring and evaluations.

Monitor & Evaluate the Effects of current and additional HR Policy on Gender Equality & Diversity:

The only way to understand when, where and what the most damaging barriers are against gender diversity in your company is to monitor the progress of gender diversity and equality within your own business. Following this, as HR Policy is put in place or changed to improve the situation, monitoring needs to continue so that the ‘improvements’ can be evaluated to ensure they are doing their job or if further tweaking is required. Although not an exhaustive list, a few suggestions for factors to consider for monitoring (and why) follow.

  • The ratio of males/females at each level of progression through the company structure from entry level to senior management – This can help to identify where gender diversity is dropping in your company and so where the most damaging barriers to success are acting.
  • The gap (if there is any) between male and female approximate pay/hour for similar levels of job responsibilities (disregarding the amount of hours per week total worked as this has no leverage on the value of the work done per hour) – This can help to identify where/if the company pay scheme may be unfair and a possible cause of the loss of gender diversity.
  • The ratio of male to female applicants for new positions – This can help to identify if jobs are appearing more attractive to one gender than another.
  • Gauge existing opinions towards gender roles and abilities in management and/or barriers to gender diversity in top management (maybe through anonymous questionnaires) – Although the opportunity to do this well would be reliant on company size, this can help to identify any existing bias that the case for gender diversity needs to address and may also shine light on specific barriers that are the most felt in your company against gender diversity.

Build & Deliver the Case for Gender Diversity in Top Management:

Magical Quotas:Before putting in place magical quotas to aim for gender equality in top management it is extremely important that these quotas are not seen as free ride tickets for females to the top, or as a requirement for filler positions for conformance with equality laws. In either of these cases the females that do make the cut to management may be undervalued by their peers and subordinates losing the positive effect being aimed for and ensuring that the business is not improved by the efforts made to diversify. Another three fold division of labour is needed here as employees, managers and share holders all need to be convinced that the changes are for business improvement and not for token equality measures to ensure that the change is most effective.

Share Holders: Obviously if you want to fix this age old problem successfully it is going to take resources, and your share holders are going to want to know that these resources are being used for a reason they like. The bottom line (in our ‘why’ promote diversity factsheet) may well be the fastest and most effective reason to convince this group that the resources are most certainly worthwhile.

Managers: Your managers are your eyes and ears for searching for new talent to come up through the ranks. As such you need to ensure that they are on board with your plan of change and improvement for the future. As discussed in our why promote diversity (complementary gender skills), male dominant abilities tend to give them an advantage for being noticed in the company as achievers whereas more female dominant abilities (that are also important for management) can be easily overlooked. Based on this it is important that your managers understand all the skills and abilities that they need to be looking for in candidates to help to make sure that they are not overlooked so easily.

Employees: The questionnaires may help to bring to light some of the bias present in your employees towards gender diversity in management that may need to be combated subtly to ensure that male and female management figures are taken seriously with equal importance. It is also important to educate all employees of all the skills wanted from candidates for management as many females in your employment may be management material but don’t know it and so won’t apply for the positions. With very few role models about to show the more dominantly female management skills in action it would be easy for a female to feel that she is not up to the task of applying for management as they do not have the skills seen in the current male dominated management.

Take Action and Create HR Policy to Break and Overcome Gender Diversity Barriers

Now you have everyone reading from the same page it may be useful to set your company a target to meet for improving the male to female ratio in your top management so that you have something to work towards. More importantly though is to look to barriers beyond existing bias among your company members, barriers in place by your own HR Policy. The questionnaire may bring to light some barriers that are of poignancy in your own company but even without a questionnaire some things that come up regularly in the papers and gender equality blogs may be things to look at within your company. The following list, again not exhaustive, contains some of the areas in which you may be able to help even the playing field between males and females to help promote gender diversity through to top management:

  • Equality of pay/hour for similar work responsibilities (regardless of hours per week worked) – as females regularly have to take part-time work to be able to work around child responsibilities that aren’t expected of males. Being paid less for the same work means you are more likely to change jobs until finding a company that shows your skills are valued rather than the time per week you can give.
  • Availability of flexible work hours or work from home where possible – again this would help for females where certain shifts are impossible around child responsibilities leaving females no choice other than to move job. It has also been shown in polls and studies that employees would be happier and more productive with flexibility in shift hours and/or the possibility of some work from home so this arrangement could be a double edged winner!
  • Improve handling of maternity leave, for example treating it more like a sabbatical or long term sickness rather than a ‘lack of commitment’ to the workplace – maternity leave is said to have two effects: Firstly, females coming back from maternity leave are can be either not ready to jump in at full speed at first and may crumble if put under too much work pressure or on the flip side may feel undervalued for their capabilities if they are left out of the loop with activities as employees have adapted to not using them as a ‘go to’ while they were absent. In both these cases sufficient support is needed to ensure that on returning the employees re-integrate comfortably with the company (so they do not feel the need to leave) and continue their progress as high as they can get in the company (especially as working mums are likely to be improving their management skills in their free time almost constantly with children and a household to look after).
  • Use your advertising for top management to create attainable role models for female management traits. Maybe even set up a campaign within your company to find candidates and train them for fast track to the management positions they should already have made it to if the company had fixed the issues sooner! – You may not be able to provide female-dominant-trait role models right away for females to aspire to and recognise their leadership qualities through, but by being a bit clever when you advertise your top management positions you can create a visible attainable role model in theory at least, and with a bit of fast track training for top candidates you may even get the ball rolling a little faster with real role models.

Be Proud!

As a very final point, I feel it’s important to mention that (although in the UK we are still way behind many countries in our gender diversity in top management) taking on this age old issue is something to be proud of: It not only improves your company but helps to increase equality in society and that is something worth shouting about! So it makes perfect sense to make sure that you are open about your efforts to improve your company’s gender diversity in top management and to release your successes in the matter and make sure everyone knows that you are getting ahead of the game!

Factsheet: HR Policy: How to Promote Gender Diversity to Top Management
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

HR Policy: Change Management Check List

change management spider: data, plan, team, engage, execute, measure success and improve

The following information can be used as a checklist to help ensure your policies and procedures for change management makes the most out of the changes you implement for your company, and overcomes the negative emotional hurdles on the way to success.

Planning

Before beginning a change to the company, whatever it is, small or large, it is important to work out the Who, When, Where, How, Why and What about it. The plan doesn’t have to be concrete, it is much better to have a plan that needs reviewing then to have no plan to refer back to.  Your Human Resources Policy should stipulate that a plan is needed for all changes that are to be implemented.

Know the Laws: Some laws need to be taken into account when planning for company change. A couple of examples are ICE and TUPE regulations. ICE, Information and Consultation of Employees regulations, states that employees can request that arrangements are set up to inform and consult with them about issues with the organisation. Although these regulations only apply to businesses of 50 or more employees the guidelines set out in these regulations can be useful to aid transition for any business.

Resources: Without the right resources available at the right time a change can become a disaster field. Plan what resources are needed and when, and what extra resources may be needed to ensure any negative impacts during the transition are reduced:

People: Who is required to make the change run smoothly, do you need to bring in someone to oversee the changes (or maybe someone for health and safety or HR consulting etc.) or is there someone who can fill these caveats already in your company? Which employees will be required, and when, to receive information/training about the changes? Who needs to be involved with the planning/consultation phase of the changes?

Company ‘systems’: Which systems, and how will they be involved with the change and when? Does the change have knock effects to other systems that are not directly being changed?

Communication services: How will the change information be given to employees, customers and suppliers? What communication services will be needed to perform the task?

Time/timing: How much time is required for the change to take place? Will extra man hours be required to reduce the impact of employees learning new processes and knowledge? When would be the best time to make the change to avoid ‘busy trading periods’ to reduce negative impacts or to have the improvement in place in time for an event for better publicity?

Training/Education: What extra training and education will be required, for who and when, to ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them during the change. How will the training/education be supplied?

Change monitoring systems: How will you know if the changes are effective, what data needs to be collected before during and after the change?

Building a Vision/Value for the change: To be able to sell the change to your employees and customers as a move towards a better company, service or product a case for the changes needs to be built, a vision of the change value. Why is the change needed and how does the improvement outweigh the resources and possible negative impacts endured on the way? If a strong case cannot be made for the change in light of the resources required then the change should be reconsidered before continuing!

‘Communication/Training – Action – Auditing’ Circle

Once the planning is as far as it can go without action and you’ve decided the change is definitely to go ahead, it is easy to forget that the change management is not finished at just writing the policy and processes. The policies and processes cannot just sit hidden in a book on a shelf; the circle of effective ‘communication/training, action and auditing’ needs to be implemented. It may be pertinent to address in your policies and procedures not only that the circle of ‘communication/training – action – auditing’ is required, but what best practice should be used at each stage for the company to gain the most from each change.

‘Communication/Training

Effective communication is required both internally for employees and externally to suppliers and customers to ensure negative effects can be minimised or planned around and that the positive effects can be accentuated as a selling point for the company.

Instruction/Training: For employees to effectively action the change they need to be aware of the change and have the knowledge of how and when they are involved. Provision of appropriate communication of the instructions or training is required as well as enough time to take on board the knowledge ready for use.

Leadership/Team Motivation: How willing an employee is to put in the extra effort involved in dealing with change is greatly affected by the perceived value of the effort. Sharing the aim/vision that the change is working towards and the value of the change with the employees can help to motivate them. How and who you choose to deliver the information and lead the change is important to ensure that the messages keep the employees both positive and engaged with the change. Any form of change can lead to disruption, concern and take people out of their usual ‘comfort zone’. It is too easy for change to be seen only as something negative, resulting in loss of morale and productivity. Be aware of supporting employees with the extra resources they need to achieve the change you want to see; to listen to concerns and suggestions for improvement; and to promote the positives to them, not just the company. How you manage the change with your employees will be the difference between a positive improvement that is achieved efficiently and with good results, or a slog to try to reach whilst battling the negativity of the people involved.

External Change Promotion: Allowing suppliers and customers to find out about the changes through firsthand experience, and allowing them to guess the reason for delays or changes in expectations from the company can lead to the wrong message being sent out of incompetence and poor management. Instead anyone who could be affected by the change during the transition period should receive timely notification of the possible negative effects to allow them to minimise the effect it has on them. The same communication can be used to promote the efforts being made by the company and how it aims to improve products or service to replace the negative feelings towards the effects with positive feelings towards the effort for a better product or service in the future.

Problem Solving: Open communication lines both externally and internally should be maintained to ensure that any problems that may occur can be caught as early as possible and dealt with. Ask your employees what they think of the change, and really listen. Employees are a great source of ideas for processes that they deal with every day so they may catch something you missed before it becomes an issue! Getting your employees involved with the evolution of your company not only ensures that you make the best choices but gives your employees a greater feeling that their knowledge and skills are valued.

Action

Keeping on Track: Monitoring the progress of the change is important to ensure that the transitional phase is as quick and painless as possible. Any barriers impeding the change should be identified and eliminated as soon as possible. Appropriate levels of priority need to be given to the change or it will fall to the way side in favour of ‘business as usual’; if sufficient priority is not being given because productivity level cannot be held satisfactorily at the same time it may be necessary to rethink the plan to involve more man hours or to implement a work around to get the change fitted in.

Evolving the Plan: As stated near the beginning, the plan does not have to be concrete, in fact it is actually helpful if it is not set in stone. Refinement of the plan should be possible at any time to put into play any ideas that can improve the smooth transition or indeed the end point of the change. Also, amendments may need to be added to avoid, or minimise any problems that are only found during the implementation stage of the change. And of course, for all additions to the plan all necessary personnel need to be informed of the changes, the where, when and why so that everyone is working from the same script and can act accordingly on it.

Continued Motivation and Leadership: Communicating the successes of the change and acknowledging the individuals involved with the success can keep the positive vibe about the change pumping and keep employees motivated to push through to get the change in place where they may be currently sliding back. Getting top management involved with the acknowledgements even if just in name can also have a real impact on adding value to the change and improving employee motivation. Having management available on the ‘shop floor’ to help, not only identify change barriers, but to aid productivity during the transition where employees are struggling can show a greater understanding of the effort involved physically and mentally during a change creating a stronger bond between staff and company leadership also improving employee motivation.

Auditing and Continuation of the Circle for Change Management

Auditing is essentially monitoring the success of the changes so that planning for future improvement and communicating of the progress to the company vision can continue. Policy and processes should be audited regularly: Are the policies being followed? Are changes working to improve the company? Can the policies be improved? Audits may lead to policy/process improvement or retraining of specific staff, or may prove that the set up is currently working. Appropriate actions indicated by the audit should be made and the chain starts again with communication/training of necessary staff about any amendments and communication of results achieved by the company. It is good practice to audit all policies and procedures including the auditing procedures themselves regularly, it may be useful to include a time table for auditing in your Human Resource Policy to ensure nothing gets overlooked.

Building for Future Change

Managing change well not only improves the company due to the change itself but also improves the company image subsequently helping to increase the company’s market base. Also, following a well managed change employee pride in their work is higher leading to higher levels of motivation and employees are likely to be more open to future change given success in previous change.

For more information on HR policies and procedures for change management see ACAS.

Factsheet: HR Policy: Change Management Check List
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Equal Opportunities at Work, Promoting Diversity: Employment Policy

employees application form

Employee diversity attracts a broader market and improves team problem solving skills through a wider field of interests, (and therefore) skills, knowledge and viewpoints. Enforcing equal opportunities at work, to promote diversity, also encourages a happier, more motivated workforce, leading to improved brand value, productivity and recruitment prospects.

‘Equal opportunities at work’ is achieved by considerate (non-discriminatory) policies governing all employment processes from recruitment to redundancy. Combating discrimination in Employment Policy is not just good practice; it is also against the law to discriminate against anyone due to a protected characteristic.

Protected Characteristics by Law (The Equality Act 2010)

It is against the law to:

  • Directly discriminate against (treat less favourably, unless objectively justified) anyone due to a protected characteristic; actual or perceived – age, race, religion, belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment or sexual orientation, or pregnancy, maternity, marriage or civil partnership (but not being single).
  • Directly discriminate against anyone due to age, race, religion, belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment or sexual orientation of someone they are associated with.
  • Indirectly discriminate against (have a policy that may apply to everyone but treats less favourably, unless objectively justified) anyone due to age, race, religion, belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership (but not being single).

Understanding ‘Objectively Justified’

Objective justification for treating someone differently due to a protected characteristic occurs only if there is a legitimate aim and there is no other reasonable action that can achieve that aim. Reasonable actions include adjustments to working arrangements (e.g. providing flexible working hours) or physically to the workplace (e.g. replacing steps with ramps or providing adapted equipment). Some objective justification examples follow:

  • Age: If you intend the employee to sell alcohol unsupervised, it is objectively justified to consider for hire only those over 18 years of age, as it would be illegal to do otherwise. Note: Limiting the age of applicants for the aim of employing a more dynamic or more mature person would be discriminatory.
  • Sex: If you intend the employee to attend a female changing room, possibly in view of ladies changing, it is objectively justified to consider for hire only females as the customers could feel uncomfortable otherwise. Note: Only hiring a certain sexual orientation to avoid possible customer discomfort would be discriminatory.
  • Disability: It is objectively justified to consider for hire only those capable of handling heavy goods if the job requires a lot of heavy manual handling. Note: Disabilities that do not affect abilities intrinsic to the job cannot be used to treat the prospective or current employee less favourably.
  • Positive action: It is lawful to encourage application of people due to a protected characteristic if they are currently disproportionately under-represented in your workforce or that role; however the advertising and hiring process should not exclude people due to not having that specific protected characteristic.

As you can see, cases of objective justification are very narrow. As each case brought to court or tribunal are strictly interpreted on an individual basis; if there is any doubt whether you have objective justification for differential treatment of anyone due to a protected characteristic, seeking professional advice is advised.

Employment Policies and Processes: Recruitment to Redundancy

Now to the specific processes of employment policy: Below runs through some of the important information that should be considered when reviewing or writing company employment policy to avoid discrimination and promote equal opportunities from recruitment to firing; advertising, interviews, hiring, wages, training and redundancies.

Recruitment Advertising

  • Language for Job descriptions – requirements and role names: In all recruitment advertising, language should be chosen very carefully. Protected characteristic specific words (e.g. handyman or junior executive) are easy to eliminate to avoid discrimination but descriptors which can imply discrimination should also be avoided (e.g. mature or dynamic that may portray discrimination against younger or the older applicants respectively).
  • Advert Accessibility: A broad range of advertising media should be used to ensure non-discriminatory access. For examples, unless objectively justified, placing adverts only in Christian publications would discriminate access due to religion or using only visual advertisements would discriminate access due to disability.

Application and Interview Arrangements

  • Requested Details and Diversity Forms: Collected details of protected characteristics that are not objectively justified should either be discontinued or kept anonymous and separate to the main application for diversity evaluation only (e.g. on a separate diversity form kept by the HR department). Unnecessary requests for dates and periods should be avoided to reduce the chance of discrimination due to perceived age. Where UK qualifications are required, overseas equivalents should be openly accepted so as not to discriminate due to race.
  • Adaptability: The application process should allow applicants to request reasonable adjustment to the interview process to allow for a disability, where possible reasonable requirements should be met but not used to treat that candidate less favourably, to avoid discrimination due to disability. Accessibility and usability of the application itself should also be considered with regard to different disabilities.

Selection Process for Hiring, Promotion, Training and Learning Opportunities

  • Positive Action:Selection of a candidate for hiring, promotion, training and learning opportunities may take into consideration any protected characteristic that the company can prove is disproportionately under-represented by the company’s current workforce, or in the role being assigned. However, this positive action may only be used as a tie-breaker for equally top contenders for a position and not in any other part of the selection process.

Equal Pay, Terms and Conditions

  • Equality: A company should give equal pay, terms and conditions for jobs that are either the same, broadly similar, or of equal or similar value. It is up to the company to provide objective justification evidence for any differences.
  • Complaints: A complaint about wage difference can be taken to tribunal up to six months (or to civil court up to six years) after an employment has ended and the claim can include up to six years of back pay (including sick pay, holiday pay, overtime etc.).
  • Pay secrecy: It is unlawful to restrict employee discussion about possible pay differences but an employer can require that employees do not share their pay rates with people outside the company.

Redundancies

  • A protected characteristic cannot be used as criteria for selecting employees for redundancy. Criteria for redundancy selection may have to be adjusted to ensure that certain protected characteristics are not discriminated against by proxy. For example, if absence and sick leave is being used, absence due to a known disability should not be included to avoid discrimination due to disability.

Action, Results and Review

It is easy to forget that the job of promoting diversity and equal opportunities is not finished at just writing the employment policy and processes. The policies and processes cannot just sit hidden in a book on a shelf; the circle of effective ‘communication/training, action and auditing’ needs to be implemented.

Necessary employees need to be effectively trained/told about changes to action them appropriately. The policy and processes should be audited regularly: Are policies being followed? Is equal pay being achieved? Is the company promoting diversity and equal opportunities? Etc. Audits may lead to policy/process improvement or retraining of specific staff, or may prove that the set up is currently working. Appropriate actions indicated by the audit should be made and the chain starts again with communication/training of necessary staff about any amendments and communication of the results achieved by the company. A factsheet to come soon will cover this ‘change management’ in more detail.

Social Networking and Social Media: What does it mean for business?

social networking; collaboration, communication, fun, friendship and business or addiction, scams, harrasment, waste of time, and identity theft

– Facebook – YouTube – Twitter – Linked In – Google+ – Flikr – Digg –

Social networking and social media effects business from two angles:

  • 1) NEGATIVES: The impact on businesses where employees have access to social networking and social media during work hours
  • 2) POSITIVES: The new opportunities available for all businesses for improved/cheaper communication and marketing strategy

NEGATIVES: The impact on businesses where employees have access to social networking and social media during work hours

Any employee with access to the internet has access to social media and social networking. Below summarises the main concerns surrounding this and the important questions to be considered.

Procrastination

Undetected skiving has never been easier; social networking and social media puts a plethora of addictive gaming, must-see video clips and gossip at the click of a button and can quickly be minimised when the manager passes (or put in a pocket if using a phone). Should access to the most popular websites be removed from work-stations, or a policy issued to ban all use of social networking and social media, or should it be left up the individual employees to decide what is the right and wrong levels of use?

Knock-on Lowered Morale

Either not taking action against procrastination that leads to increased workload for other employees, or overly restricting the use of social media and social networking can cause resentment from employees and lowered morale. What is a reasonable level of use for social media during work time? Should productivity be monitored to ensure work activities are not taking a back seat? When and what is appropriate action against social networking and social media use?

Bullying/Discrimination

While most employees may be certain how not to act face-to-face or even over the phone to not discriminate or bully, over the internet the line seems to be blurred for some people. Also, it may be important to keep in mind that “an employee may not always be aware they are being bullied. For example, an employee may not see comments posted about them on social networking sites or blogs.” (ACAS). Should your bullying/discrimination policy be extended to include what is unacceptable behaviour on the internet?

Health and Safety

Some employees may be setting themselves up for injury by checking into their social network or watching social media for a break from work instead of stepping away from their consoles. Should management proactively encourage breaks away from the computer to ensure regular rests away from consoles?

Office Networks: Security Threat

Some not so scrupulous people use social networking and media to spread their homemade viruses and malware; less tech savvy members of staff could easily infect their worktops and other networked computers with malicious code while browsing. Should employees be provided with basic training on avoiding downloading viruses and malware? What is suitable virus and malware protection and how often does it need updating? How often should regular backups be made of local and system data in case of infection?

POSITIVES: The new opportunities available for all businesses for improved/cheaper communication and marketing strategy

Social networking and social media provide a gateway to a large portion of the public and also provides free communication tools which, if used with care may reduce company costs, improve flexibility and improve productivity. The following paragraphs elaborate on this.

Company Communication

Social networking tools provide free and quick communication avenues for exchanging messages with employees worldwide. Email, tweeting, instant messaging and more are all at the tips of your fingers giving a new level of flexibility as to the how, when and where employees can communicate with each other. Blogging or posting podcasts to keep employees and customers up to date with policy changes, and closely monitoring feedback comments and questions, allows any issues to be dealt with quickly and effectively, aiding the smooth transition of company improvements.

Collaboration and Co-operation

Private networking can be used for internal meetings and conferencing and to centralise information, improving real-time collaboration and flexibility of information access across a company. Similarly social networking can be used to keep up with industry information and conferences, linking with other professionals with similar goals to encourage co-operation and collaboration across companies, helping to share and build on innovations as they appear in your field.

Public Connection

  • 80% of houses receive internet,
  • 40% of adults have mobile internet
  • 2/3 of adults with the internet use facebook – one of the many social media/networking platforms (OFCOM)

Based on these figures it is not surprising that businesses are increasingly using social media and social networking as their ‘marketing face’, as the gateway to a large portion of the population for recruitment, product advertising and brand marketing strategies. Using social media and social networking for direct communication to potential employees and customers cuts out the middle men (advertising and recruitment agencies) and in turn cuts down the bureaucracy, time and money involved.

It is however, important to remember that there are still many people that are not actively using social media and social networking and so to ensure that recruitment is not discriminatory and that marketing reaches a larger cross section of the population other routes would still need to be considered.

Focus on Social Media

Social media can be used to promote achievements, special offers or services of a company. Hearing about a company from individuals is much stronger than hearing about it from the company itself, especially as an individual can create a connection with other individuals. In the world of social media, it doesn’t take a team of advertising specialists to provide a boost to your company branding, just enthusiastic employees wishing to share their positive experiences of your company with others. Rather than monitoring employees to check they aren’t posting social media that could hurt your company brand, it may be productive to give incentives for positive promotion of your brand and innovative ideas of advertising products and services of your company.

Focusing on Social Networking

Engaging with and making a connection with potential employees could be the difference between them taking the job or turning it down in preference of another. Proactively connecting with candidates through social networking sites could give you that all important edge for getting the best picks. Encouraging current, potential and soon to be former employees to connect to your company through social networking allows them to stay linked with the individuals within the company encouraging continued brand loyalty. This link can also serve as a communication line to share positive branding messages with the public such as notification of company awards or special recognition received or any other positive messages.

Have your say on what you think social media and social networking means to business… Do you think it is something that really needs protecting against, is it worthwhile to spend time embracing it, or do we need to do a bit of both?

Factsheet: HR – Social Networking and Social Media: What does it mean for business?
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Human Resources: Getting Employee Morale Right!

Spider diagram for employee morale: People: Empower, Train, Reward

Low employee morale leads to less productivity. As discussed in our blog (Improving Employee Morale: Do your employees know you value them?) quick fixes like budget staff parties and paper plate awards can provide only temporary morale boosts for some employees and may even cause more problems than they solve with others. Employee morale measures need to be part of the everyday running of your business to ensure your employees feel valued and stay positive and productive.

It may be a thankful surprise that the list below of most popular steps taken for making employees motivated in their work can be even cheaper than the quick fixes!

Make your workplace positive:

We’ve all heard the expression at some time ‘you couldn’t pay me enough to work there!’, if the work atmosphere isn’t pleasant employees expect extra value back just for ‘enduring the day’. Making your workplace positive puts you back on a level playing field for what is expected in return for their work.

  • Laugh at the small things, not everything at work needs to be serious and a laugh can really lift spirits
  • Don’t dwell on mistakes, fix them and move on, focus on achievements, celebrate them as a team and build on them to keep moving forward
  • Encourage regular breaks for all, not just smokers, a stroll away lets them relieve any building stress making the day less of a slog and breaking work into smaller chunks is also known to improve productivity levels
  • Don’t forget to smile… a smile is infectious!

Give your employees job satisfaction:

If your company earns awards, helps the community or simply satisfies a client enough for them to send thanks, share this with your employees and celebrate it with them. Similarly, if there is a press release about a reward, include the employees that helped to achieve it. Even sharing news about breaking small targets can improve job satisfaction and help encourage employees to keep up the good work. Essentially sharing the pride of the company with the individual employees outsources the job of making employees feel valued!

Show your employees ‘real’ appreciation:

Rewarding hard work goes a long way to encouraging it to continue as it shows you value the work. However for the reward to work its magic it has to be something of value to the person receiving it. Make rewards personable rather than assuming one size fits all. A bouquet of flowers may make one employee feel special while another employee may not appreciate it at all and feel the act was more a cheap PR trick than a reward. Find out what drives your employees as individuals and reward them for exemplary work with something of value to them to ensure your efforts show real appreciation for their work!

Empower your employees:

An employee that feels their ideas are listened to and acted on feels empowered by their position and so valued by their company for their skills/knowledge. Ask your employees what they think of their jobs and what they think can be done to improve things, and really listen. Employees are a great source of ideas on how to improve processes that they deal with every day so it is win win! Get your employees involved with the evolution of your company to ensure you make the best choices and that your employees feel their knowledge and skills are valued. After all, you hired them for their skills and experience or paid for their training in the position so it makes sense to use that skill and experience.

Help your employees reach their full potential:

Providing training lets an employee know their development is valued. A lot of employees don’t just look at their salary for what they get back from their company. Many employees look for skill development to help them reach their full potential. Training doesn’t have to cost the earth, it can be as simple as opportunities for newer employees to pair up with veterans or to be part of problem solving groups to improve on existing skills and knowledge or you can help to broaden their skills and knowledge by allowing them time to work in other departments.

All these steps work together to ensure your company treats your employees as the valuable assets they are and makes them more motivated in their jobs – higher employee morale = more productivity! (and a much nicer atmosphere for everyone to work in).

 

Factsheet: HR – Getting Employee Morale Measures Right?
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Right to Work Checks – Avoiding Employment of Illegal Workers

The law requires employers to make checks and keep records of rights to work for all persons employed from January 1997 onwards. This factsheet gives an overview as to the why, how, when, and what to check, as an employer, to gain a statutory excuse to avoid prosecution and or fines if an illegal worker is found working for you.

Why? The Law: Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006:

You are breaking the law if you employ a person who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Under Section 15: An employer not completing the necessary checks can be charged a civil penalty of up to £10,000 for each illegal worker they have hired.
Under Section 21: employer knowingly employing an illegal worker can face criminal prosecution leading to the possibility of up to 2 years imprisonment and, or an unlimited fine!

Duties from the 2006 Act apply to anyone who starts working for you on or after 29 February 2008. However, the previous 1996 Act means that you should have already acquired appropriate Right to Work documents for all employees that started working for you between 27 January 1997 and 28 February 2008.
NB: Right to work documentation only needs to be kept until 2 years after a person stops working for you.

How? Check and record right to work documents to provide a statutory excuse:

With a statutory excuse, if an employee is subsequently found to be an illegal worker, the employer may avoid charges and, or prosecution. The following checks and records are required for your statutory excuse for all existing employees who started work with you since February 2008 and every person you look to employ:

  • Request and be given original documents fulfilling one of a-g from list A/B in the documents table(bottom)
  • Check each document is genuine, belongs to the person you are checking, and shows that they are allowed to do the type of work you are offering. If any of these checks prove to be false then the person\’s right to work is not proven and you are not entitled to hire them.
    • Any photographs and, or date of birth listed should be consistent with the person\’s appearance
    • Any date of birth listed should be consistent across documents
    • Any shown limited leave to enter or remain in the UK expiry dates should not have passed
    • Any shown UK government endorsements (Biometric Residence Permits, stamps, stickers, visas) should show that the person is allowed to do the type, and or amount of hours work being offered
    • The name should be consistent across documents, or if it is not, a further explanatory document should also be used (eg. marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, deed poll, or statutory declaration)
  • Copy, and store securely, the relevant pages of the documents in a format which cannot later be altered (eg. photocopy or scan)- it is suggested that you write on the copy the date it is made:
    • For a passport/travel document – copy the front cover and all pages containing either the holder\’s personal details or UK government endorsements showing their permission to be in the UK and to carry out the work you are offering.
    • For all other documents – copy them in full (including both sides of a Biometric Residence Permit)
  • Keep a record of every document you have copied.

When are the checks done?

You must check every person you plan to employ before employing them. Ensure this is done for all employees to avoid discrimination. If the documentation provided satisfies one of a-g from list A in the documents table (bottom), then this is the only check that is required as the statutory excuse will last as long as their employment with you.

If the documentation provided satisfies one of a-e from list B in the documents table (bottom), then their right to work checks must be repeated at least every 12 months, or sooner, if a person\’s limited right to work is due to expire before the 12 months deadline.

What documentation is needed?

The table on page 3 summarises the documents that can be checked and recorded to provide your statutory excuse. You need to have checked correctly either a singular document or combination of documents that satisfies one of a-g list A or a-e list B that clearly indicates about the person one of the options shown adjacent to the document in the right column (overlapping rows from the left to right column show where more than one option is available for a given document).

Also important to note, the following list of documents (1-9), taken straight from the April 2012 Summary Guide For Employers On Preventing Illegal Working In The UK, are NOT acceptable as right to work documentation for your statutory excuse:

  • 1. A Home Office Standard Acknowledgement Letter or Immigration Service Letter (IS96W) which states that an asylum seeker can work in the UK. If you are presented with these documents then you should advise the applicant to call us on 0151 237 6375 for information about how they can apply for an Application Registration Card;
  • 2. A National Insurance number on its own in any format;
  • 3. A driving licence issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency;
  • 4. A bill issued by a financial institution or a utility company;
  • 5. A passport describing the holder as a British Dependent Territories Citizen which states that the holder has a connection with Gibraltar;
  • 6. A birth certificate which does not have details of at least one of the holder\’s parents
  • 7. A licence provided by the Security Industry Authority;
  • 8. A document check by the Criminal Records Bureau;
  • 9. A card or certificate issued by the Inland Revenue under the Construction Industry Scheme.

Right to work documents table

For the full UK Borders Agency summary guide for employers on preventing illegal working in the UK, and write to work checklist: summary-guidence.pdf

Factsheet: HR – Right to Work Checks – Avoiding Employment of Illegal Workers
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Human Resources Factsheet: Grievance Flowchart

  • Ensure grievances are given importance and investigations are carried out promptly to lessen the likelihood of hearsay and facts becoming blurred.
  • Let the person raising the grievance know the outcome and be given the chance to appeal what has been decided.
  • Timescales will differ from case to case, ensure sufficient time is taken to confirm the facts and investigate properly.
  • Inform the person raising the grievance of the delay if the process is running longer than expected. Do not let the process slip just because other tasks have taken unnecessary priority.

informl and formal grievances: meetings to investigations to reports and resolutions

Factsheet: HR – Grievance Flowchart
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.